Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday word, 18 May 14

Our Royal Road
Easter Sunday5 A (18 May 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
St. Peter addressed his letter to Christians spread over a wide area. We know it as Turkey.1 His letter brims with images for Israel found in his scriptures.2 The section of Peter’s letter we heard began with one of them: stone. Isaiah had encouraged his contemporaries that God was present to his people. Peter encouraged early Christians with both the image and the prophet’s words: See, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame. Peter experienced in risen Jesus God fulfilled that promise. Jesus was the stone, rejected and killed by humans but chosen and raised by God to life beyond shame, beyond death. Risen Jesus is the cornerstone holding together people of every race, language and persuasion.

Peter heaped three scriptures atop one another to encourage those he wrote to join Jesus and to build on him. He didn’t stop with three. He applied to Christians the images prized by Jews above all others, images God conferred on them: chosen race3; royal priesthood4; God’s own people.5 Why did Jewish people prize those images above all others? Because God conferred them at the beginning, at Mt. Sinai when God covenanted with the people he delivered from slavery and death to freedom and life. The very identity of God’s people St. Peter applied to Christians! He recognized in Jesus God extended God’s choosing call to all.

Knowing Jesus’ body in the world, his church, is God’s household enlightens and refreshes. Two other things make it inspiring. First, to be part of God’s household is a gift: let yourselves be built into a spiritual house. God builds; I let God build with me. That gift quality existed for the Hebrews. God chose them and responded lovingly to them before they knew it was God. The Lord said to Moses: I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry against their taskmasters so I know well what they are suffering. …I have come down to rescue them.6 From them God fashioned a nation and Mary and Joseph so Jesus could grow human with us.

Second, the vocation of the people Israel was to make known to the world the God who chose them with tender love. That vocation of God’s chosen, priestly people shaped their living. So it is with us, the new people of God in Jesus. God chose the Hebrews for a purpose: to serve. To serve God flows through the bible like a swollen river. Service of others is not absent. Serving others is loving care and respect, Love your neighbor as yourself.7 Jesus made that commandment of old a twin sister of loving God with all we are. Christian living fulfills Jesus’ twin commands.

Their royal priesthood did not make them better than each other or anyone else. Instead, all practiced their priestly living with humility. Humility is mindful concern of others and their needs. The Proverb put it: Whoever cares for the poor lends to the Lord, who will pay back the sum in full.8 Jesus echoed that; remembering Jesus St. Peter urged everyone: Clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another.9 Christians’ royalty rests in this mutual care.

God’s people resemble God. In practice that means we seek to grow more godly. From the beginning the word holy describes our resemblance. Holiness registers like this:
  • We are aware all we are and have are gifts of our triune God;
  • Our awareness moves us to be grateful; and
  • We live our gratitude in the midst of others—those like us and those who are different. Christians live their holiness as leaven in the dough of our world.
Easter’s Fifty Days allow us to connect with risen Jesus as creation’s crown and the cornerstone of the new creation. In buildings the place of each stone depends on the cornerstone. In the spiritual house of the church Cornerstone Jesus helps us place ourselves as his friends. Friendship with Jesus fulfills his twin commands to love God and others. Friendship with Jesus seeks to grow like him—holy like his Father. Friendship with Jesus is our royal road of mutual care and selfless service. We trust the road because Jesus walked it first and invites us to follow him.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause and rest in our triune God.
  • Ask St. Peter to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for modeling for us how to live our baptismal priesthood.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to join his mission and grow genuinely holy, serve with deep fidelity and love selflessly.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ prayer is a plan of action for all his friends who join him.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. This map gives the ancient names Peter mentioned.
  2. The common translation of the Hebrew Scriptures was in Greek.
  3. Exodus 19.5; Deuteronomy 7.6: 10.15; Isaiah 43.20.
  4. Exodus 19.6.
  5. Exodus 19.5; Isaiah 43.21.
  6. Exodus 3.7-8.
  7. Leviticus 19.18.
  8. Proverbs 19.17.
  9. Luke 6.38; 1Peter 5.5.
Wiki-images of Jesus addressing Philip PD-US and church cornerstone by Nheyob CC BY-SA 3.0

No comments: